Just Friends?

Elizabeth Hanna Pham

I suspect that most females, myself included, have uttered one of the following phrases at some point or another:

Oh I just hang out with the guys.
Pretty much all my friends are guys.
Guys are just easier.

And we say this with pride.

Now, there are some girls who grew up naturally as tomboys and didn’t ever need to tell anyone about it. They are the girls who, in elementary school, just really got into sports or grew up with brothers, or who may have felt genuinely rejected by girls. They had fun with the boys and they never thought anything of it.  But these are not the girls of which I speak.  For most of us aren’t this type of girl.

Most of us started out at the all-girls lunch table.  “Guys are easier” began when one daring girl decided to forge the great valley between her table and the boys’.  This is the girl who used to play four-square but had been closely watching the football game out on the recess field and decided it might be to her advantage to go out there and play.  She would occasionally come back to the girls and they would build up a combination of admiration and resentment for her.  As time passed, a few would follow in her footsteps. Typically, these were the more popular girls on into middle and high school. They were not the ones who only wore Nike shorts and t-shirts (the tomboys who didn’t need to tell everyone they were tomboys,) but instead, the girls who could change easily between the Nike shorts (rolled up,) and a mini-skirt.  These were the girls who could mitigate and manage crushes while still confidently trusting that if her guy-friend liked another girl or dated another girl, he would still, somehow, in the end, belong to her, and that, deep down, he secretly liked her more.  Because in the end, I’m friends with all the guys meant, for most of us, all the guys wish they could date me.

I know that many women will protest.  They will say that the efforts to bridge this gap and have un-sexual, equal relationships among all genders is completely possible and an important part of progress.  And that the real culprit for any sort of uneasiness or stress about it all is simply because of society’s incorrect reliance on gender distinctions and personal lack of control.

But I pose this question. If it’s no big deal to have guy friends, if it’s no different from having girlfriends, why do women so often take pride in it?

I would suggest that it is because, like it or not, we are no gender-neutral society and we are nowhere close to being such a society.  We are sexual and we are romantic beings.  And when we know that tons of guys are close friends with us, in more cases than not, we take pride in this because it affirms us.  It affirms our womanhood. It affirms our sexuality. And it affirms us emotionally in a way that a female friend cannot affirm us.  It doesn’t matter if we are not attracted to the guy.  It doesn’t matter if we think of him as a brother. He likely does not feel the same way, (See this video for example.)  But even if he does, he is still giving us something that a girlfriend cannot give us.  We know this because we say it ourselves.  Flippantly, and with a laugh, we acknowledge, guys are easier.  And by easier we mean that we get the benefits of a boyfriend and the benefits of a girlfriend altogether in this guy friend for whom we do not have to be a girlfriend.  We get to feel affirmed in a way that usually involves a certain type of commitment without the commitment.  (Again, I am not saying that all women in their friendships with men are like this. Some women really are “tomboys,” and some women may genuinely feel absolutely nothing different between their relationships with men and their relationships with women.  But I am speaking of the women for whom “having lots of guy friends” is something that gives us pride, and gives us pride because it gives us a certain type of affirmation.)

This may seem like not that a big of a deal – like, yeah sure my guy friends make me feel particularly good about myself, what of it?  But too often we get caught up in the idea that the only sort of infidelity or romantic hurt we can cause a person is that of the physical nature.  So we think when we have a guy friend who affirms us in this special, somewhat romantic – but not really – way, that we aren’t hurting anybody.  But with this we can potentially have the same mentality of the guy who sleeps around.  He says, we both enjoy it, and we’re not committed, so we’re not hurting anybody. But deep down, he ought to know that there is more to it than that.  He ought to know that he is taking something precious from the girl.  He ought to know that he is perhaps taking something from another guy.  He ought to know that he is taking something from himself.  Indeed, he is reducing the beauty of sexual commitment to simply an act that makes him feel good. 

Similarly, women can too often take the beauty of emotional commitment and reduce it to the momentary thrill of being desired or sexually approved of – to the momentary thrill of being a man’s sole or primary confidante.  I am not at all claiming that being the sole confidante for a man who is not family/boyfriend/husband is always wrong.  But we must be aware of its potential gravity.  In the same way that a man can be tempted to possess a woman physically for his own self esteem, a woman can fall into possessing a man emotionally for her own self esteem . . . and worse – fall into thinking there is nothing wrong with it.

And why do we do this?  Why do we use each other like this?  I believe it is because we are scared of rejection.  We may not feel approved of, and when we don’t feel approved of where we should feel approved of, we will go elsewhere in search of such approval.  Men sleep around because they cannot trust that they will get the affirmation they need as a man from their one woman.  Women insist on seeking out many close friendships with guys because they cannot trust that they will get the affirmation they need as a woman from their one man.  It is so sad.  Women have been let down so many times.  They have been cheated on.  They have been left.  And women are afraid.  So naturally, they want to ensure a backup plan. They want to ensure that they will still get the affirmation they need when they may not be getting it anymore.

But the only way we can ever stop the cycle of insecurity between men and women is if one side decides to make a change.  One side must admit the truth and admit their own fault in the matter.  For if we admit the truth, we will see how women who use men emotionally have contributed to unfaithful men (and in turn, how unfaithful men have contributed to women who use men emotionally.)  We will see how we have told men to cheat.  We say be our friend even when you have a girlfriend.  Don’t you dare get closer to your girlfriend than you are to me!  Keep hanging out with me.  Keep confiding in me.  Keep building me up.  But do we think about the girlfriend? What it would be like to be the girlfriend?  And do we think about how for a man, this emotional commitment too often inevitably turns physical, if at least in his mind?

We must recognize that as women we have so much power.  And when we use our power incorrectly, we hurt men so deeply and in turn, we hurt ourselves.  So I challenge us, let’s stop lying to men, and most importantly, to ourselves.  It’s not fair.   Our society is not gender neutral.  We are sexual. We are romantic.  And until that turns off, it’s going to be very difficult to accomplish legitimate deep and close platonic friendships between women and men (not impossible per se, but very difficult.)  I don’t have all the answers or the exact formula for all this.  I don’t know exactly where each boundary is.  But I do think that it is a boundary that needs to be talked about more seriously and more honestly.  It does us no good to pretend we are stronger than we are.  Thousands of affairs, physical or emotional, have begun between two friends who believed they were stronger than they were.

And so, if you are in a relationship, I urge you to talk about this with each other, and when you talk about it, listen closely.  Too often, we don’t listen. We don’t listen between the lines.  We don’t listen to the eyes and to the soul.  We shouldn’t be thinking about what we can get away with, but instead, about how well we can love this person.  So I urge you to think about how you would want to be loved and to love in that way.  And if you are single, do the same.  Think of every guy as someone else’s until he is your own.  And treat him the way you want any girl to treat your own guy. Because I promise you.  Guys will respond to us.  They want to.  They want to love us and to make us happy.  But we have to stop sending them so many conflicting messages.  We have to start loving them first.  And sometimes, depending on the situation, we must consider that loving them may mean not being their friend at all.

Creating Family & ComKids

Marjorie Murphy Campbell

While apparently not true, gossip had it last week that another celebrity couple had decided to create a family, this one with harvested eggs, unidentified sperm and a gestational surrogate.  The upset appears to be the veracity of Ellen DeGeneres’ and Portia di Rossi’s plans, not the prospect of their piecing together component parts and processes to create a living child.  That industry, the commercial enterprise of removing reproduction from a fertile human female united to a fertile human male through intercourse, creeps steadily into our daily lexicon almost without notice.  “Creating a family” – as in Simms itself – is the new, unmitigated good – an adult objective so presumptively worthy that doubts and objections to the commercialized simulation of natural human reproduction often meet with hostility or stony silence.

This is the emerging reality:  we “create” – not “have” – a family, both euphemisms for acquiring a baby, that little creature who turns a couple into parents.  We use to “have” children, giving God or nature primary role as their “creator;” but our postmodern language elevates the human to creator, the want-to-be parent(s) in charge of literally designing, creating and funding children legally their own into existence, while redefining human concepts of lineage and ancestry.  Children are no longer the prerogative of nature and intimacy, linked biological to an identifiable line of human persons – they are creations of man, an optional accessory available to any adult in need of his/er own family.

 This is a radical shift in paradigm. 

But it is evident everywhere – and often expressed in a context designed to discourage dialogue.  Consider the following quote from an activist during a recent press conference held by “Catholics for Marriage Equality,” a group opposed to reversing that state’s narrowly passed legislation permitting same-sex marriage.   

“I never want our own son or any of our children to be alone—in sickness or in health.  I want each of them to have the security and joy of a family that they create, and for that family to have the legal protections that come with civil marriage. “(Italics added) 

No one – certainly no mother – could possibly take issue with this sentiment.  Who would dare object and say, “But how do gay men and their male partners “create” their own children?” – as if wishing upon them loneliness, illness and despair?  

It is hardly surprising how little awareness – or concern – we seem to have regarding this new class of commercially created child, or “ComKids” – children who, for the first time in human history, will not know their biological origins, are intentionally separated from adults intimate to their conception, gestation and birth and whose very being will have been purchased in whole or in part as a commercial transaction.  In demands that the government legally entitle all adults to the same “security and joy of a family” that living persons have known as biologically conceived and connected children, there is an eerie disregard for the fundamental differences which ComKids will bear and suffer.  

The lack of concern for the fate and future of this experimental class of human being can not be excused by blinkered focus upon the living adult and an expectation that children, like pets, will dutifully love their “parents” and not experience – or, at least, not voice – feelings of loss and longing for biological ties or information denied them.  Nor is it possible to deny that being conceived, gestated and birthed as a commercial transaction can and does matter to human beings.  One need only watch the testimonies in Anonymous Father’s Day or read Robert O. Lopez’s recent “Growing Up With Two Moms: The Untold Children’s View” or review Mark Regnerus’s summary “Queers As Folk” to recognize that this new class of children do and will have a new class of emotional and developmental issues as well as a list of demands for information, rights and protections.

Let us, for the sake of fairness, allow the questions and voices of ComKids – children designed, conceived or acquired through purchase of any component of the reproductive process – into the discussion of family configuration and creation.  And let these voices – and their questions, concerns and demands – be as inextricably associated with “creating a family” as are the prevailing concerns that adults not grow old alone due to infertility; incompatibility; homo-, bi-, trans-, or poly-sexuality; disabilities or any other impediment to child-bearing by sexual intercourse between a fertile man with fertile woman. 

What are the rights of ComKids?  Do they have a right to know their biological origins?  Do they have a right to know the identity of the person whose sperm, egg or womb made possible their life?  Do they have a right to know the terms and conditions of the contracts that lead to their existence?  Do they have legal recourse against fertility clinics, egg brokers, surrogates or any other party under normal contract and tort law? 

These questions beg consideration now – before we further populate a class of children with no more rights or recourse to information about their identity than African-Americans enslaved to suit the needs of their masters.  These are good questions to consider now, as adult humans shift into the role of creator, creating children for themselves so that they will not feel alone or unloved.

Violence & The Pill

Angela Lanfranchi, M.D.

~ “there is evidence that use of oral contraceptives alters a woman’s baseline preferences for men such that Pill users prefer men who are relatively genetically similar to them in the loci of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC).”

Implicating the Pill, ie. oral contraceptives, in the violent deaths of women by their intimate partners will raise eyebrows and hackles no doubt.  That is why medical references are included in this post.  A large body of scientific literature supports just that: the reality that the Pill by altering a woman’s choice of intimate partners leads to a higher risk that she will die a violent death.  Look it up.  It’s sad but true.

A 1992 article in the Journal of Trauma reported that the most common cause of non fatal injury among women was violence by an intimate partner.  More disturbingly, intimate partner violence accounted for one third of the women murdered in the United States.

We have known since the 1980s that violence and accidents was the second leading cause of death among women who take the Pill.  In 2010, the Hannaford study published in the British Medical Journal that women on the Pill were more likely to die a violent death than those women not taking the Pill.  They also found that the longer a woman took the Pill the higher her risk of a violent death.

Although the authors of the study could not explain these findings, a letter to the editor published March 13, 2010 by S.Craig Roberts of the University at Liverpool  shed light as to the reason for this disturbing result.  He stated, “I suggest that recent evolutionary insights into human partner choice provide a clue.”  He stated that there is evidence that use of oral contraceptives alters a woman’s baseline preferences for men such that Pill users prefer men who are relatively genetically similar to them in the loci of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). In other words, they prefer men who are genetically very similar to them.  These are the same genes tested to see if a person is similar enough to someone who needs them for a transplant.  They choose men who could be a very close relative.

The unions of MHC closely related couples were studied and it was found that the women rejected sexual advances from their partner more frequently than couples who were MHC dissimilar.  Another consequence of being partnered with relatively MHC-similar men is that women expressed lower sexual responsivity toward their partner compared to women in relatively MHC-dissimilar couples and they reported having more “extra-pair partners”. In other words, in their relationships they had fewer sexual encounters, wanted sex less and were more likely to engage in infidelity or adultery.  Less sex, bad sex and infidelity is a recipe for a bad relationship and conflict that could easily lead to even deadly violence.  It is not a surprise that the leading cause of death of pregnant women is homicidal violence.

Another stressor on these MHC similar unions is that they are less fertile and the children they have were found to have more health problems, just as is found in populations that marry close relatives.  Costly prolonged fertility treatments and the care of a sick child can also wreck havoc on relationships.

Conversely, other studies have shown that men find women who do not take the pill more attractive.  When asked to rate a woman’s attractiveness from pictures while experiencing the scent obtained from women on and off the Pill (using arm pads in open glass jars placed near them), men consistently rated the women more attractive if they were off the Pill.  That could explain why young women feel the need to dress more and more provocatively.  An intern remarked that now she had an explanation for a saying:  “I got on the Pill when I became sexually active.  Now I take the Pill and don’t have sex.”

According to the Center for Disease Control, 82% of women in the U.S .are taking or have taken the Pill.   This is a huge problem. Perhaps, the use of the Pill should be reconsidered.


Kellermann AL, Mercy JA (1992) Men, women and murder: gender-specific differences in rates of fatal violence and victimization. Journal of Trauma 33: 1-5.

Ramcharan S et al J Reprod Med. 1980 Dec;25(6 Suppl):345-72 The Walnut Creek Contraceptive Drug Study. A prospective study of the side effects of oral contraceptives. Volume III, an interim report: A comparison of disease occurrence leading to hospitalization or death in users and nonusers of oral contraceptives.

Hannaford PC, Iversen L, Macfarlane TV, Elliott AM, AngusV, Lee AJ. 2010. Mortality among contraceptive pill users:cohort evidence from Royal College of General Practitioners’ Oral Contraception Study. British Medical Journal 340: c927

Roberts, S Craig, BMJ March 13, 2010 Rapid Responses available at: www.bmj.com/content/340/bmj.c927?page=1&tab=responses

Roberts SC, Gosling LM, Carter V & Petrie M (2008) MHC-correlated odour preferences in humans and the use of oralcontraceptives. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 275:2715-2722.

Alvergne A, Lummaa V (2010) Does the contraceptive pill alter mate choice in humans? Trends in Ecology & Evolution25: 171-179.

Garver-Apgar CE, Gangestad SW, Thornhill R, Miller RD & OlpJJ (2006) Major histocompatibility complex alleles, sexual responsivity, and unfaithfulness in romantic couples. Psychological Science 17: 830-835.

Havlicek J, Roberts SC (2009) The MHC and human matechoice: a review. Psychoneuroendocrinology 34: 497-512.

Kyriacou DM, Anglin D, Taliaferro E, Stone S, Tubb T,Linden JA, Muelleman R, Barton E, Kraus JF (1999) Risk factors for injury to women from domestic violence. New
England Journal of Medicine 341: 1892-1898.


And After the Honeymoon?

Elizabeth Hanna Pham

One frequent question I am asked as a newlywed is:

What are you going to do now that the wedding is over?

A reasonable question—after all, the wedding planning took a lot of time. And so a bride may wonder what she is going to spend her time on now. But that’s not all we mean when we ask this question.  We don’t want to know simply what the woman will do with her time.  We want to know what she will live for.  Behind such a question is a little bit of fear, concern, and pity that perhaps she doesn’t have as much to live for.  Indeed, this is the perennial fear we have of settling down.  That once in the happily ever after, things get boring.  Things get routine.  Things aren’t so happily ever after anymore.

And yet, even though we fear such an ending, we women aren’t very good at avoiding the fairy tale, and through the bitterest of hearts it continues to pierce.  So we fall in love, we marry, and then we brace ourselves for what we expect to be a downward spiral and a steady loss of the joy we had on our wedding day.  Why do we do this?  How is it that we could be so attracted to something and yet seemingly so disappointed by it?  And why do we keep coming back to it?

Perhaps it is because the whole process is engrained in us.  We need it.  We need the fairy tale.  But perhaps the problem is that we are more in love with the fairy tale itself than we are with the happily ever after.  Perhaps the problem is not that the happily ever after doesn’t come, but rather, that we don’t know how to properly accept it and build it and live it.

The thing is, weddings are all about hope, and women are very good at hoping.  They’re so good at it that they get drunk on it.  You can see women drunk on hope whenever you go into a bridal store, or even when you watch girls shopping for their prom dresses.  You see them drunk on hope when they plan parties.  When they wrap Christmas gifts for their children.  Hope intoxicates us.  Hope is a beautiful wonderful thing.  Hope presupposes happily-ever-after.  Hope presupposes Heaven.  And there is nothing quite as hopeful as a bride turning the corner to walk down the aisle to her groom. This presupposition lifts us to a high like nothing else.  And so naturally, when we come down from it, we may feel empty and confused.

The danger arises, though, when we allow that emptiness to frighten us and when we, in our fear, turn to fill it with something that shouldn’t be going there.  We may fill it by looking only to the past. We may fill it with enough new projects to distract ourselves.  We may fill it with our own self-indulgences.  Whatever we may fill it with, we will end up blocking out that which was supposed to come in its place.  In the process of blocking out, we become embittered and unable to see or recognize or accept the happily ever after that was intended for us.  In getting caught up so much in the joy of hope, we forget hope’s purpose.  We forget the reason we hope.  And so when love stands ready at the gates to flood into our hearts and our home, we stand closed off and turned around so that it cannot enter.  Too many times, we women get caught up in the excitement of hope and so when love is not exciting (as true and deep love usually is not,) we panic.  When the butterflies stop fluttering in our stomachs, we become sad, thinking they have left for good, when really, they lay resting because they have finally found the place to which they were flying.

A few years ago, I decided I needed to learn to love Christmas Day.  For years I had become depressed on that day for the same reason that so many women feel empty after their weddings.  Christmas had come.  The Eve had ended, and along with it, my hope.  But how silly I was!  For when my hope ended, it did so because I had found what I hoped for.  I had to relearn how to bask in the love and joy of Christmas Day.  For so long, I had been so upset about the hope ending that I missed everything else. I had to learn to love what I hoped for more than the hoping.  And it wasn’t until I could learn this that I began to fully love both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

And so it is with the bride.  A bride is full of hope.  But a wife is full of love. And although hope is exciting, love is, well, everything.  Love is the only reason hope is worth anything.  So when hope may not feel as exciting, or when we no longer have to hope, we cannot let that fact embitter us and shield us from love.  That would be a tragedy.  That is the only real way we can ruin our chances at a happily ever after.  For we determine how happy it is according to how much we choose to love.  But we can never choose to love until we learn to let our hopes be fulfilled.  It takes surrender.  It takes the willingness to be content.  It takes a willingness to be empty for a little bit in order to be filled up with something even more precious and joyous and wonderful.  But it is worth it.  After all, it is the whole reason we hoped in the first place.

So then, perhaps the answer to the question, what are you going to do now that the wedding is over, ought not be simply a list of projects or tasks but instead, 

Well, now that the wedding is over, I’m going to be a wife. And I’m going to live happily ever after.

Sometimes we may be afraid to say this.  We worry people won’t believe it. We worry that we don’t believe it.  But it can be as true as you choose to love just like a wedding can be as beautiful as you choose to hope or a home as happy as you choose to make it.  So do not be afraid.  Our hopes are not unfounded.  Love does satisfy.  Love does fulfill.  Love does save.  All we must do is allow it to.






The Right To Know Who Gave Us Life

Margaret Somerville

Contributed by Margaret Somerville

The basic questions raised in all cases where all the attributes of parenthood do not reside in the two biological parents are whether all children (except, perhaps, those who are naturally conceived and born into an opposite-sex marriage) have, first, a right to know who their biological parents are, and, second, where possible to have some reasonable contact with them. 

When reproductive technology was new on the scene and being described as “science fiction becoming science fact”, the New Yorker magazine published a cartoon.  It showed a line of adults (sketched in that magazine’s typically pear-shaped format – tiny heads with increasingly large bodies towards the legs) facing the reader, each holding a martini.

In front of the lineup, looking at them with their backs to the reader, a nurse is holding the hand of a very young boy and pointing at the adults.  The nurse says to the boy: ”This is your sperm-donor biological daddy; your egg-donor biological mummy; your gestational surrogate mother; your social mummy; your social daddy; your psychiatrist, to try to sort you out; and your lawyer.”

A current case in the town of Cochrane, Ontario, is one example of the dilemmas that can arise from such separation of the elements of parenthood.

Nicole Lavigne is a lesbian woman living with her partner of fifteen years, Selena Kazimierski.  Ms Lavigne inseminated herself with sperm donated by Rene de Blois, whom she’d known since elementary school.  Ms. Lavigne says that Mr de Blois agreed that he would play no role in the life of Tyler Lavigne, the child who resulted from the sperm donation.  After Tyler was born, Mr. de Blois changed his mind and has gone to court requesting to be recognized as Tyler’s father and given “general and liberal” access rights, accordingly.

Mr. de Blois seeks to have the agreement he signed not to seek such rights set aside, it seems on two bases: that Ms Lavigne “threatens or intimidates” him with the contract; and that she has failed to carry out “her part of their original bargain, by carrying a[nother] child for him”.

One line of analysis of this situation would be in the context of contract law.

Contracts in Ontario, and all other provinces except Quebec, require consideration — “payment” by each party, which can be in the form of a promise — to be binding.  Here that would be, “I’ll give you sperm/a uterus for ‘your’ child, if you’ll give me a uterus/sperm for ‘my’ child.”  Even if the promise were not fulfilled, it would suffice for consideration and, hence, a valid contract.

Coercion or duress to enter a contract can make it voidable.  But coercion or duress arising, as alleged here, from Ms. Lavigne’s relying on the contract would not do so.

Rather, the central question regarding the validity of the contract is whether it is contrary to public policy or public order and good morals, such that it is void.  But, even if the contract were valid, the more personal the performance of its provisions are, as here, the less likely a court is to enforce them.

I suggest, however, that many of us will have an intuitive reaction that there is something wrong in dealing with this situation as governed by a contract that two adults have entered and to which the person most affected, the child, was not a party.

In a 2007 case, Jane Doe v. Alberta, the Alberta Court of Appeal decided along those lines. (Permission to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was denied, which is an indirect affirmation of the judgment.)

A man and a woman were living together and the woman wanted to have a child and the man did not.  She decided to become pregnant through anonymous artificial insemination. They entered a contract that the man would not have any rights or responsibilities with respect to the child.  The court struck down the contract on the basis the adults could not contract away the child’s rights and the contract was not in the child’s “best interests”.  In the absence of any other “father” in the child’s life, it was in the best interests of the child that the mother’s male partner act as a father to the child.

The basic questions raised in all cases where all the attributes of parenthood do not reside in the two biological parents are whether all children (except, perhaps, those who are naturally conceived and born into an opposite-sex marriage) have, first, a right to know who their biological parents are, and, second, where possible to have some reasonable contact with them.  I propose that the response to both questions should be in the affirmative, unless that is clearly contrary to the “best interests” of a particular child, and that to decide otherwise is a breach of children’s fundamental human rights.

The vast majority of us want to know through whom life travelled to us and, at the least, to “put a face” to those people.  To intentionally destroy a person’s ability to know that – intentionally to make them “genetic orphans” and especially for society to be complicit in doing so – is ethically wrong.

There is enormous controversy over whether a child needs and has a right to a family structure that includes (although may not be limited to) both a mother and a father.  Here again the “best interests” of the child should prevail, not the preferences of adults which would contravene those interests.  In other words, we need child-centred decision-making, not adult-centred decision-making, in cases such as the Cochrane one.

Since reproductive technologies came on the scene, as both individuals and societies, we’ve faced issues unprecedented in human history with respect to children’s parentage and family structure.  On the whole, adult-centred decision-making has prevailed in this regard.  Using the ethical doctrine of “anticipated consent” might help to correct that bias. That doctrine requires us to ask what can we reasonably anticipate a child – for instance, Tyler Lavigne – would consent to if he or she were able to decide. Would he be likely to choose to have his biological father, Rene de Blois, in his life?

Margaret Somerville is Samuel Gale Professor of Law and Director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics & Law and is an international leader in the discussion of complex ethical questions in medicine.  This article is reprinted in full by permission from Mercatornet.

Victory for Women in New Jersey

Kathleen Sloan

Contributed by Kathleen Sloan

Women’s health and human rights advocates are popping champagne corks all over the country today. Legislation that would have allowed commercial surrogacy in the state of New Jersey, without protections for women who serve as surrogates and no regulation of the fertility industry, was vetoed. Virtually written by surrogacy brokers, the blatant commercial exploitation of women contained in this legislation is staggering.

New Jersey is a bellwether of the surrogacy issue in many respects so this development is a positive portent for those who care about the exploitation of women and about safeguarding women’s health.

In 1988, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the famous Baby M case that surrogacy contracts were in violation of every statute and public policy of the state that dealt with the rights of mothers, the rights of children, and issues dealing with adoption and termination of a mother’s rights. That decision of the Supreme Court had an impact far beyond the borders of New Jersey, influencing not only other states but other countries. It continues to be taught in almost every law school in the country.

Following the New Jersey Supreme Court decision, the governor and the legislature asked the New Jersey Bioethics Commission to study the issue of whether laws should be changed to create a statute that would enable commercial surrogacy. The Commission, comprised of people from both political parties, psychologists, scientists, physicians, attorneys, healthcare providers, and those from other walks of life, held public hearings, created a task force to conduct research and field trips, and held public debates on the policy issues over an 18 month period. After this comprehensive process spanning 3 years, a 171-page report was issued.

The report strongly condemned all forms of surrogacy, including gestational surrogacy. It also noted that all the problems associated with surrogacy where the woman giving birth is genetically related to the child are present with gestational surrogacy in which the woman giving birth has no genetic relationship to the child. The report recommended that the legislature pass a law deterring the practice of surrogacy, including some quasi-criminal sanctions, and imposes rules specifically tailored for the award of custody in those limited instances when deterrence fails.

The legislation vetoed this week was an attempt to sneak under the radar and avoid public scrutiny of its contents. It was introduced and swiftly passed out of committee so that the citizens of New Jersey would not be likely to discover that the legislation went against nearly every recommendation of the Bioethics Commission’s report. This action was also the polar opposite of the careful, non-politicized, detailed review and analysis conducted by the Commission.

Fortunately, advocates for the health and well being of women and children became aware of these nefarious actions and responded immediately. They held a press conference at the state capitol calling on the legislature to defeat this bill, and they contacted all legislators to express their concerns.

Remarkable indeed was the coalition of organizations and individuals who came together in this effort, ranging from pro-choice feminist leaders to the head of New Jersey Right to Life and including a gestational surrogate who condemned the practice and deeply regretted her decision to serve as a surrogate. The coalition remained steadfast after the bill ultimately passed and landed on the governor’s desk, meeting with the governor’s counsels urging a veto.

The major issues associated with surrogacy could fill a book. Among them are:

  • — the further commodification of women and their bodies beyond sexual commodification;
  • — absence of regulation which turns seemingly private transactions into de facto abusive employment practices;
  • — exploitation of poor, low income and financially vulnerable women;
  • — the commercialization of reproduction;
  • — an invitation to fraud by brokers and clinics without regulation;
  • — exploitation of women’s poverty and subordinate status;
  • — lack of studies and statistics on the size of the market, the demographic characteristics of surrogates, and the medical, legal and financial risks;
  • — and an out of control profit-driven $6 billion fertility industry that preys upon women.

And these do not include the numerous and serious health risks!

Today’s victory is a stark and stunning example of what can be accomplished when politics and other differences are put aside in order to come together around what truly matters: women’s health, prevention of the commodification of women and their bodies, stopping exploitation of women, and recognizing that children’s human rights must be respected and their commodification be opposed.

Kathleen Sloan is a Consultant for the Center for Bioethics and Culture, a member of the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Women (NOW), a member of the Board of Directors of the International Coalition for Reproductive Justice, and the former Program Director at the Council for Responsible Genetics.

Children: The New Underdog

Marjorie Murphy Campbell

Children have no voice setting public policy.  They are legally, physically and emotionally dependent.   They cannot vote.  They cannot form non-profits, produce surveys or express their preferences.  Their rights are severely limited, by the law of the land and by the intimacy of family operations.  They live and die as charges of adults they did not choose – much like the old (and firmly rejected) status of women, indentured servants and men without property.

It was once the prerogative of women to be the voice for children in society.    “Women and children” were clumped in social policy discussion, with the women – the early feminists – battling for laws to protect children, their development and the stability of their families.  Women championed temperance in efforts to protect children, especially children living in poverty, from the devastation of alcoholism.  Women championed child labor laws, eliminating the commercial practice of exploiting children for near-slave labor.  Women championed charitable and governmental welfare so that mothers and children abandoned by men could survive and live.  The chronicle of women’s accomplishments on behalf of children made and shaped U.S. history and fodders a rightful criticism that patriarchal accounts of history are simply prejudiced against the role of women in modern life.

Have women abandoned children?

Why are women so willingly advocating now for rights to terminate unborn children, rights that redefine parenthood to suit adult sexual orientation, rights redefining marriage as an adult-centric relationship, rights giving legal recognition to three or more adults over a single child, and even rights to genetically modify children to suit adult desires – all without a whimper of concern for the impact upon the children?  Children have literally no voice in the experimental social policies that are fundamentally altering the natural conditions under which children have been nurtured for centuries.  Today, redwood trees and gray wolves have more effective advocacy and protection from invasive changes to their natural environment than children do.

Let me say, first, that it is ludicrous to argue that children do not need a voice – that they are malleable creatures who will grow and thrive in whatever conditions adults thrust upon them.  Children, by common sense, have definite needs and they no more “adapt” to changes made without regard to these needs than do redwoods or wolves.  Culturally, we all seem to agree (so far) that children should not be the secret sexual objects of coaches or priests – but beyond that, dialogue on social policy issues seems to strategically avoid asking, “What is the impact upon children?”  We seem far more interested in what it takes to nurture a sapling or cub than we admit to knowing about how to nurture emotionally healthy human children.

Who will take up the voice of children – those little creatures locked into human configurations they did not choose, increasingly endowed with genetic history that will be hidden from them, expected to adjust their development and affections to an array of adults with legal demands and self-gratifying expectations upon them?

A major source of “voice” for these children is slowly – but steadily – emerging in the memoirs, articles and documentaries presenting to the public the reflections of children who grew up within experimental circumstances.  Three examples come immediately to mind:  Dawn Stefanowicz’s frank and generous account – Out From Under:  The Impact of Homosexual Parenting; Jennifer Lahl’s interview-based Anonymous Father’s Day; and, most recently, Robert Oscar Lopez’s article “Growing up with Two Moms:  The Untold Children’s View.”

Each of these focused, earnest pieces share with anyone willing to listen the reflections of adults who grew up in truly modern circumstances: Ms. Stefanowicz with a sexually active bi-gay father; Ms. Lahl’s interviewees as offspring of purchased or “donated” sperm and undisclosed fathers; Mr. Lopez without male adults of influence.    Each of these accounts offer insight into the world of the modern child – through the voice of an adult now developed, focused and readied to share the effects of the social experiment upon them.

These voices arise against the torrent of disapproval adults invested in the experiment can summon.  Like the Catholic Bishops and Penn State administration, adult investors in movements like marriage equality or commercial enterprises like reproductive technologies seem trigger ready to invalidate, discredit or denigrate the experience of these real people who suffered real harms as literal guinea pigs.  It is a terrible reality that Lopez, for example, could not find a shred of sympathy or validation for being cut off from male influences in his developing years – and what that came to mean in his life as a struggling teen and young adult – until making contact with an academic sociologist who published a widely circulated study about children raised in same-sex family settings (which, that too, the marriage equality investors would discredit and bury.)

These struggling brave voices need help, support and encouragement – just as the victims of clergy and coach abuse needed community validation and encouragement. These are the voices of the new “underdog” – the children abused, neglected, manipulated, lied to and deprived of claim to caring, child-centered environments in which they might have what they need – just like the struggling sapling and the vulnerable gray wolf cub.  That these voices seem threatening to policies or products that dominate adult agendas makes them cruelly vulnerable.  Like any underdog, they come from a position of no power, subject to social distain and public lynching.

It is a chilling reality, that their voices, the voices of children raised in social experiments, have become the new underdog.








Pornography, Respect, and Responsibility: A Letter to the Hotel Industry

Robert P. George and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Contributed by Robert P. George and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

A letter on pornography and business ethics written by two prominent public intellectuals—one a Christian, one a Muslim—sent to hotel industry executives July 9, 2012.

We write to ask you to stop offering pornographic movies in your company’s hotels. We make no proposal here to limit your legal freedom, nor do we threaten protests, boycotts, or anything of the sort. We simply ask you to do what is right as a matter of conscience.

We are, respectively, a Christian and a Muslim, but we appeal to you not on the basis of truths revealed in our scriptures but on the basis of a commitment that should be shared by all people of reason and goodwill: a commitment to human dignity and the common good. As teachers and as parents, we seek a society in which young people are encouraged to respect others and themselves—treating no one as an impersonal object or thing. We hope that you share our desire to build such a society.

Pornography is degrading, dehumanizing, and corrupting. It undermines self-respect and respect for others. It reduces persons—creatures bearing profound, inherent, and equal dignity—to the status of objects. It robs a central aspect of our humanity—our sexuality—of its dignity and beauty. It ensnares some in addiction. It deprives others of their sense of self-worth. It teaches our young people to settle for the cheap satisfactions of lust, rather than to do the hard, yet ultimately liberating and fulfilling, work of love.

We recognize that we are asking you to abandon a profitable aspect of your business, but we hope that you will muster the conviction and strength of will to make that sacrifice and to explain it to your stockholders. We urge you to do away with pornography in your hotels because it is morally wrong to seek to profit from the suffering, degradation, or corruption of others. Some might say that you are simply honoring the free choices of your customers. However, you are doing much more than that. You are placing temptation in their path—temptation for the sake of profit. That is unjust. Moreover, the fact that something is chosen freely does not make it right; nor does it ensure that the choice will not be damaging to those who make it or to the larger community where degrading practices and materials flourish.

We beg you to consider the young woman who is depicted as a sexual object in these movies, as nothing but a bundle of raw animal appetites whose sex organs are displayed to the voyeurs of the world and whose body is used in loveless and utterly depersonalized sex acts. Surely we should regard that young woman as we would regard a sister, daughter, or mother. She is a precious member of the human family. You may say that she freely chooses to compromise her dignity in this way, and in some cases that would be true, but that gives you no right to avail yourself of her self-degradation for the sake of financial gain. Would you be willing to profit from her self-degradation if she were your sister? Would you be willing to profit from her self-degradation if she were your own beloved daughter?

Furthermore, we trust that you need no reminding of the fact that something’s being legal does not make it right. For example, denying black men and women and their families access to hotel rooms—and tables in restaurants, as well as other amenities and opportunities—was, for countless shameful years, perfectly legal. In some circumstances, it even made financial sense for hotel owners and operators in racist cultures to engage in segregationist practices even when not compelled by law to do so. However, this was deeply morally wrong. Shame on those who denied their brothers and sisters of color the equal treatment to which they were morally entitled. Shame on you if you hide behind legality to peddle immorality in the pursuit of money.

Our purpose is not to condemn you and your company but to call you to your highest and best self. We have no desire to hurt your business. On the contrary, we want you and your business to succeed financially—for your sake; for the sake of your stockholders, employees, and contract partners; and for the sake of the communities that your hotels serve. We believe that the properly regulated market economy serves the good of all by providing products and services at reasonable prices and by generating prosperity and social mobility. But the market itself cannot provide the moral values that make it a truly humane and just institution. We—owners, managers, employees, customers—must bring those values to the market. There are some things—inhuman things, unjust things, de-humanizing things—that should not be sold. There must be some things that, for the sake of human dignity and the common good, we must refuse to sell—even it if means forgoing profit.

Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is co-founder and a member of the faculty of Zaytuna College. Affiliations are provided for identification purposes and do not imply institutional endorsements.

This article originally appeared in Public Discourse: Ethics, Law, and the Common Good, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, NJ and is reprinted with permission.  Receive Public Discourse by email, become a fan of Public Discourse on Facebook, follow Public Discourse on Twitter, and sign up for the Public Discourse RSS feed.  Support the work of Public Discourse by making a secure donation to The Witherspoon Institute.

Copyright 2012 the Witherspoon Institute. All rights reserved.